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Hoping to Win, Expected to Lose: Theory and Lessons on Micro Enterprise Development

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  • Karlan, Dean

    (Yale University)

  • Knight, Ryan

    (Yale University)

  • Udry, Christopher

    (Yale University)

Abstract

Many basic economic theories with perfectly functioning markets do not predict the existence of the vast number of microenterprises readily observed across the world. We put forward a model that illuminates why financial and managerial capital constraints may impede experimentation, and thus limit learning about the profitability of alternative firm sizes. The model shows how lack of information about one's own type, but willingness to experiment to learn one's type, may lead to short-run negative expected returns to investments on average, with some outliers succeeding. To test the model we put forward first a motivating experiment from Ghana, and second a small meta-analysis of other experiments. In the Ghana experiment, we provide inputs to microenterprises, specifically financial capital (a cash grant) and managerial capital (consulting services), to catalyze adoption of investments and practices aimed towards enterprise growth. We find that entrepreneurs invest the cash, and take the advice, but both lead to lower profits on average. In the long run, they revert back to their prior scale of operations. The small meta analysis includes results from 18 other experiments in which either capital or managerial capital were relaxed, and find mixed support for this theory.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Yale University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 105.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:yaleco:105

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  1. Mano, Yukichi & Iddrisu, Alhassan & Yoshino, Yutaka & Sonobe, Tetsushi, 2012. "How Can Micro and Small Enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa Become More Productive? The Impacts of Experimental Basic Managerial Training," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 458-468.
  2. Augsburg, Britta & de Haas, Ralph & Harmgart, Heike & Meghir, Costas, 2014. "Microfinance at the margin: Experimental evidence from Bosnia and Herzegovina," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2014-304, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  3. repec:cge:warwcg:49 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Marcel Fafchamps & David McKenzie & Simon Quinn & Christopher Woodruff, 2011. "When is capital enough to get female microenterprises growing? Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," CSAE Working Paper Series 2011-11, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  5. Bloom, Nicholas & Eifert, Benn & Mahajan, Aprajit & McKenzie, David & Roberts, John, 2011. "Does management matter ? evidence from India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5573, The World Bank.
  6. Dean Karlan & Martin Valdivia, 2007. "Teaching Entrepreneurship: Impact of Business Training on Microfinance Clients and Institutions," Working Papers 107, Center for Global Development.
  7. Dean Karlan, Robert Osei, Isaac Osei-Akoto, and Christopher Udry, 2012. "Agricultural Decisions after Relaxing Credit and Risk Constraints," Working Papers 310, Center for Global Development.
  8. Christopher Udry & Santosh Anagol, 2006. "The Return to Capital in Ghana," Working Papers 932, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  9. Gabriela Calderón & Jesse M. Cunha & Giacomo De Giorgi, 2013. "Business Literacy and Development: Evidence From a Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural Mexico," Working Papers 742, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  10. Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2008. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1329-1372, November.
  11. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David J. & Woodruff, Christopher, 2009. "Measuring microenterprise profits: Must we ask how the sausage is made?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 19-31, January.
  12. Orazio Attanasio & Britta Augsburg & Ralph De Haas & Emla Fitzsimons & Heike Harmgart, 2011. "Group lending or individual lending? Evidence from a randomised field experiment in Mongolia," Working Papers 136, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Office of the Chief Economist.
  13. Shawn Cole & Thomas Sampson & Bilal Zia, 2011. "Prices or Knowledge? What Drives Demand for Financial Services in Emerging Markets?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(6), pages 1933-1967, December.
  14. Esther Duflo & Michael Kremer & Jonathan Robinson, 2009. "Nudging Farmers to Use Fertilizer: Theory and Experimental Evidence from Kenya," NBER Working Papers 15131, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Bruhn, Miriam & Karlan, Dean & Schoar, Antoinette, 2013. "The impact of consulting services on small and medium enterprises: evidence from a randomized trial in Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6508, The World Bank.
  16. Bruhn, Miriam & Zia, Bilal, 2011. "Stimulating managerial capital in emerging markets : the impact of business and financial literacy for young entrepreneurs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5642, The World Bank.
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Cited by:
  1. McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2012. "What are we learning from business training and entrepreneurship evaluations around the developing world ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6202, The World Bank.
  2. repec:cge:warwcg:115 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Fafchamps, Marcel & McKenzie, David & Quinn, Simon & Woodruff, Christopher, 2014. "Microenterprise growth and the flypaper effect: Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 211-226.
  4. Gabriela Calderón & Jesse M. Cunha & Giacomo De Giorgi, 2013. "Business Literacy and Development: Evidence From a Randomized Controlled Trial in Rural Mexico," Working Papers 742, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  5. Margolis, David N., 2014. "By Choice and by Necessity: Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment in the Developing World," IZA Discussion Papers 8273, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Campos, Francisco & Coville, Aidan & Fernandes, Ana M. & Goldstein, Markus & McKenzie, David, 2012. "Learning from the experiments that never happened : lessons from trying to conduct randomized evaluations of matching grant programs in Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6296, The World Bank.

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